Are Hindus Fatalist?

“India will never progress. Why? Indians believe in fatalism and think that (therefore) there is NO sense in struggling”

“Hinduism advocates fatalism. The fatalist is devoid of initiative. He would not be driven by ambition or be an achiever. On the other hand, the West and USA work hard hence they become developed country.”

“Uday, Hindus think that destiny makes one fatalist and therefore inactive or without any dynamism,” a friend from Japan wrote to me.

“Hindus surrender to destiny. That’s why they can’t produce the likes of Helen Keller, Stephen Hawking, Ludwig van Beethoven”

“Uday, a Hindu is such a prisoner of his faith that he just could not be driven to action. There is no way to motivate him,” a UK-based psychologist told me once.

-These are the most common global view – that all Hindus are fatalists. Hindus believe that fate is predetermined, whatever will be will be!

I was also made to believe that everything happens as per the destiny. I was blind-folded by our evangelist sponsored knowledge spread widely in the pre and post-Independence period.

I also have seen many Hindus who are extremely fatalistic, feeling that they are chained to their experiences by astrology, birth, the choices of the Gods.

But when I researched on it, I couldn’t find any scriptures and philosophical or factual evidence to support that notion.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, Hinduism does not advocate fatalism of any kind.

I am not discussing here whether life is based on free will or destiny. I am not venturing into an analysis about whether fatalism is right or wrong. What I am telling is that fatalism is NOT a Sanatan Dharma tradition.

Fate and destiny are basically a Greek-Roman concept. The word Fate is derived from Italian fato. The word destiny has its roots in the Latin word ‘destinare’ (=to establish or to make firm) that morphed into Destinee (French).

Obviously, just like predictive astrology came to India from Egypt, this notion also enrooted from the West.

Even the conviction of “God’s will” rooted from the Semitic ideas. Semitic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) hold that there is a “God” in “heaven” who has created the world and who influences the situations and actions of people.

On the contrary, Freewill (with of course a small catch) is one of the fundamental principles of Hinduism.

Our ancestors, sages, knew that the intrinsic human nature is laziness since the human being is designed based upon the principle of conservation of energy. Given a chance, we don’t want to work. Our body always wants to keep energy, so it stores fat. Our brain wants to conserve energy, so it is inclined to blind beliefs, rather than spending energy on truth seeking.

So, 7000 years ago, our ancestors through Kaṭhopaniṣhad gave us a clear message: “Uthishtatha Jagratha Prapya Varaan Nibodhatha”

Meaning: “Arise, wake up, and don’t stop till the goal is reached!” – Yama (God of death) tells Nachiketa in Kathopanishad.

It is your karma that decides your future, not stars and soothsayers! The law of cause and effect in this universe is clearly stated in Gita written by Veda Vyas in 3102 B.C.

That means, approx 5000 years ago, Krishna’s message, “focus only on your Karma. For, you have every right to do your Karma. But you don’t have the right on the result”, was clearly presented in the Gita.

Karma if interpreted scientifically can also be equivalent to a phenomenon of ‘action-reaction’. Krishna didn’t advocate fatalism or destiny.

In Gita, Krishna urged Arjuna: “Cast off this faintheartedness and Arise!”

We are asked to raise ourselves by our own selves (Uddhared Atmanatmnam). Clearly, the message is loud and clear: don’t fall in the notions like pre-determined fate or destiny. You have to get motivated every moment by yourself or other means.

In his daily prayers, a Hindu pronounces that even Gods can be motivated! Listen, for instance, the Venkateswara Suprabatham sung in praise of Lord Balaji Venkateswara of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh (The lyrics developed from Valmiki Ramayana)

“Kausalya Supraja Rama purva Sandhya Pravarthathe, Uttistha Narasardula Karthavyam Daiva Ahnikam, Uttistha Uttistha Govinda Uttistha Garuda Dwaja”

“O Rama! The noble son of Kausalya. The dawn in the East commences. O Tiger among men! Arise! The daily tasks are waiting to be performed. Arise! Govinda! Holder of the Eagle Flag! Arise!!!”

– A Hindu is capable to motivate even the supreme God by his devotion!

In Mahabharata, Krishna told the Pandavas, “You have got your Karmabhumi, you get to build a magnificent city and empire from scratch, and establish Dharma and all your potential and efforts can be channeled to this new Karmabhumi”.

Bharat is called with a garland of names which includes Karma Boomi, Gnana Boomi, Yoga Boomi, Moksha Boomi Punya Boomi etc. Moksha comes after Dharma, Artha and Kama.

The philosophy of karma, indulgence in karma without attachment to fruits of karma performed is best explained only in scriptures of Hinduism, never otherwise. So, our philosophy NOT based on inaction or laziness. It is full of action!!!

Probably the sub-continent went to sleep and slumber after the invasions. Alien philosophies made Indians turn to be fatalists and followers of blind faith “god’s will”.

That is why Tamil poet Bharati called on the sleeping Indians to wake up and join the war of Independence of Mother India: “Amazing that it is still you are still asleep…Arise, Awake, Mother dear!”

A reader once asked me: “Udayji, I have been doing lot of good Karma. But I was diagnosed with cancer. It is my fate!” (I have written lot of articles about ‘why do bad things happen to good people. Please check my website)

“What about some people turn super rich and powerful over night? Do you have any logical answers for that, Uday?” many people asked me this question.

“In a whopping 99% of the cases, the karma done by us decides the result. There is a one percent “variable” though. Just one percent! In certain circumstances, this 1% becomes much more powerful than the rest 99%. For some people, sometimes it does happen- but that would be just one percent of the population. When such things happen, we call it destiny, fate, God’s wish, blessing, accident, curse etc. as the experience would be in the form of luck or misfortune. This one percent cannot be explained. But that’s not a reason to put everything we have on this one percent. This is the one percent that gives raise to beliefs. But we forget to see that this 1% variable can happen for believers and non-believers alike. So, why should we follow that 1% exception while in 99%, the karma theory is proved to be true,” this is my answer to such questions.

“Do you believe in fate, Uday?” my friend George once asked.

I told him: “My belief doesn’t matter here. I am not here to accept or fight destiny. I have my Karma which is based on my Dharma. So I am not worried about the outcome.”

If the fate is fact, then you cannot change it, so what’s the point in thinking/knowing it? And if that’s changeable by you, then how can it be a fate? So, logically it doesn’t make any sense.

Let fate, destiny or freewill exist or not. It’s not our issue. Why should we even think of that and waste our time? The uncertainty of the next moment is the most beautiful thing in this universe. Let’s do our Karma as taught by our ancestors like Krishna.

So, let us look at the future and elevate ourselves by our own mind, not degrade ourselves!

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.

Once you make such a decision with integrity, even the cosmos will conspire to make it happen!
Udaylal Pai
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